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[PARIS] UEFA boss Michel Platini is to stand as a candidate for the presidency of world football's governing body, Fifa, UEFA announced on Wednesday.
The announcement ends weeks of speculation over whether the 60-year-old Frenchman would stand in the election to find a successor to the beleaguered Sepp Blatter.
Mr Blatter decided to stand down shortly after being re-elected as president in June with scandal-hit Fifa's reputation in tatters. He announced last week that the election for his successor would be held on February 26, 2016.
Mr Platini officially announced his candidature in a letter to the presidents and general secretaries of the 209 Fifa member countries, and made public by UEFA.
"This was a very personal, carefully considered decision, one in which I weighed up the future of football alongside my own future," he said.
"I was also guided by the esteem, support and encouragement that many of you have shown me." He promised to work tirelessly "in the interests of football".
"There are times in life when you have to take your destiny into your own hands," he said.
"I am at one of those decisive moments, at a juncture in my life and in events that are shaping the future of Fifa." He added: "During this last half-century or so, Fifa has only had two presidents. This extreme stability is something of a paradox in a world that has experienced radical upheavals and in a sport that has undergone considerable economic change.
"However, recent events force the supreme governing body of world football to turn over a new leaf and rethink its governance."
Mr Platini has positioned himself as one of the most outspoken opponents to Mr Blatter's regime, and publicly called for him to stand down after seven Fifa Executive Committee members were arrested on corruption allegations in raids in Switzerland prior to May's election.
Mr Blatter ignored those calls and was duly elected for a fifth term as president, only to announce his intention to stand down on June 2 as world football's governing body became mired in scandal.
Mr Platini has since emerged as one of the most likely names to run in the election and has the verbal support of four of the six confederations that make up Fifa, with the strongly pro-Blatter Confederation of African Football and that of Oceania the only exceptions.
The former Juventus and France star eventually decided not to run in May's election, having apparently seriously considered doing so at one point, so if he does come forward this time it would indicate a confidence on his part that he can win.
None of those who have so far come forward appear as credible a candidate as Platini, who has been in charge of UEFA since 2007.
Former Brazil star Zico lacks any experience of international football administration while Liberian FA chief Musa Bility is unknown outside of Africa and Diego Maradona, who has declared an interest in standing, is unlikely to be a serious contender.
Jordanian Prince Ali, who took on Blatter in May's vote, got much of his support from UEFA members and so would be likely to give his backing to Platini rather than stand against him.
Candidates have until October 26 - exactly four months before the vote - to come forward. They must have the confirmed backing of at least five of Fifa's 209 member nations, and be cleared by the world governing body's ethics committee, to be able to stand.
Mr Platini has made increasing calls for reform of the world body in recent months. These have been heightened since US authorities charged 14 people - including the seven Fifa officials arrested in Zurich - with corruption.
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